Not Reading But Scrolling…

One week into my new job and daily commute into London and I can say two things with certainty: the job is really interesting and I will be surrounded by lovely people; and the railway service has deteriorated dramatically in the 15 years or so since I last had to commute regularly.

Perhaps a third certainty is that it will be difficult to not deplete my wallet when I have to pass by Waterstone’s Gower Street every day.

The reading time on my commute is a bonus, although it is not quite as long as I had envisaged. It is not uninterrupted time, as I have to change from train to Tube – and in the latter I am so squished, it is often impossible to find a bar to clutch on to and to take out a book. But even in the train, I have found myself using Wifi to check emails and Twitter rather than reading. If I were kind with myself, I would say it’s just to save time and not have to check on these things when I get home to my boys (and because I don’t check them during the day at work).

But the truth is somewhat more complex.

I wonder if all this frantic scrolling down the timeline for a joke, some wit, some precious gem of information is all about searching for something to fill a yearning abyss inside of me that I deny in my moments of strength and dare not measure in my moments of weakness.

Instead of abseiling down the abyss to explore further – too dangerous – or expressing its beautiful unknowability through poetry – too difficult, the chances of succeeding are too slender – I look away from it. I seek to distract myself, or look for someone else who might have expressed it for me. But I am far more likely to find that directly in books rather than mediated via social media. At its worst, I sometimes think Twitter is a lot of noise about art instead of that inner and outer quiet necessary for interacting with the art itself. [I almost said ‘communing with the art’, but that sounds terribly old-fashioned.]

What do you think? Do you feel that social media helps you avoid those complex, potentially unpleasant or dangerous thoughts?

I Pretend to Go to Tango Classes

I’d love to dance a proper tango

with flicks and slicks, quick and slow,

in sensuous syncopation,

perfection clinging to my limbs

like the smell of danger.

 

I still dream of a partner to explore

the musical vibration in every pore.

Connect with eyes closed,

be guided yet seduce to influence,

push back when needed,

make our music last beyond the final note.

 

But I fear the slide and bite

of feet so restless across the sprung floor.

I distrust the closeness of the hold, refuse to lean in…

Because I’m tired of looking clumsy

and trying too hard,

being old-dog-new-tricks kind of odd.

Because I no longer know how to walk in heels backwards.

Because nowhere do I feel as alone

as in the arms of all those others,

reassessing, readjusting, taking measure every dance.

 

So I pretend to go to weekly tango classes

and sit in my car in the woods, scribbling poems.

 

 

The Remains

Like little birds startled by crumbs we scatter

for cover when the big words come,

the ones stripped of any art, the ones that singe,

mostly avoided, successfully dodged those lumps of dry bread.

 

Keep truth abay with a light swathe, a gauzy cloak of

half-heard, half-uttered little drones of

nothingness, conventional riffs of jazz, too polite to improvise.

A necklace of platitudes we spin for each other:

barbs disguised in vanilla puddings

to be uncovered by the archaeologists of

our dead love.